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The agony and torture goes on. The pain of another penalty shoot defeat feels almost too much to bear.
They came so close to ending England’s 55 year wait for a major trophy but the heartbreak was devastating, players in tears as Italy celebrated wildly.
You can only feel for Arsenal teenager Bukayo Saka who missed England’s fifth and final penalty to seal yet more misery.
It has been a wonderful month, an unforgettable journey and memories will live on when the pain of defeat subsides.
But, ultimately, this team will view it as a disappointment, reaching the final will be no consolation because to Gareth Southgate and his players winning is everything.
Bukayo Saka was left disconsolate after missing the final penalty as England suffered more heartbreak
That is what makes them special, it is what will make them believe they will come back and go again in 18 months’ time at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
But it will not take away the pain of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of winning a trophy on home soil, of writing their names into English football folklore and becoming legends like the heroes in 1966.
They went further than in Italia 90, bettered the heady days of Euro 96 and made us dream just like three years ago when they reached the World Cup semi final.
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Southgate’s influence, achievement and managerial brilliance cannot be understated because this England team has united a nation.
That was underlined by the incredible, expectant atmosphere at Wembley but ultimately it was disappointment, pain and defeat.
The sheer speed and intensity of England’s start just seemed to blow Italy away as Southgate once again pulled off another tactical masterstroke.
Luke Shaw got off England to the perfect start
(Image: Pool via REUTERS)
While Southgate’s decision to switch to a back three and wing backs left many puzzled, no-one was quite as bamboozled as Italy boss Roberto Mancini.
Italy seemed to have no answer or any clue as to how to stop England enjoying quite so much space down the flanks. Luke Shaw was rampant down the left, Kieran Trippier had acres down the right and Kane had space to run into in the middle.
It was Shaw who started the move for England’s opener, his pass found Kane who swept the ball wide to Trippier on the right, Kyle Walker made a brilliant run to pull the Italy defence out of position and Trippier’s cross found Shaw at the back post.
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Shaw smashed the ball home, England had scored the fastest ever goal in a Euros final after just 1 minute and 50 seconds, it was Shaw’s first goal for England and it is his birthday on Monday. It was the stuff dreams are made of.
It took Italy about half an hour to get going, to find any sort of rhythm, such was England’s dominance and drive. Mancini’s men were patient, trying to string passing movements together while England’s defence stood firm and held their ground.
Declan Rice was exceptional in midfield, Italy just could not get near enough to England’s penalty box to really trouble Jordan Pickford’s goal while Kalvin Phillips did not give Marco Verratti an inch. This had all the makings of yet another Southgate tactical masterclass.
Gianluigi Donnarumma saved from Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka
But Italy were, after all, a team on a 33 game unbeaten run, packed with class and pedigree and they were always going to come back and make England suffer.
Federico Chiesa forced Pickford into a fine save after 62 minutes when he cut inside the England penalty box. Harry Maguire made a brilliant saving header but you could sense the equaliser was coming.
It arrived after 67 minutes amid a horrible goalmouth scramble in the England box. Mason Mount could not stop Verratti getting a header, Pickford pushed the ball onto the post but there was Leonardo Bonucci who smashed home the loose ball.
Suddenly, England looked like rabbits in the headlights. Italy were showing all their experience and know-how, England looked like a team which had not learnt the lessons of the World Cup semi final three years ago when they let a lead slip away.
Extra time was a torturous experience for both sides, no-one could find a way through as the fans were left on the edge of their seats as the game headed agonisingly to penalties.
Kane and Harry Maguire scored for England but Italy keeper Gianluigi Donnarumma saved from Saka and Jadon Sancho while Marcus Rashford.
Jorginho gave England a let-off when Pickford denied him with a super save but then Saka’s spot kick was saved and it ended in heartbreak with Southgate consoling his players in an all too familiar feeling.